Nazi Germany has its Horst Wessel. And Rumania today has its George Gregor.
What the young German storm-trooper, allegedly slain by Communists in 1930, symbolizes to the Nazis, this young Rumanian theological student, who was a member of the anti-Jewish Iron Guard, symbolizes for anti-Semitic elements in the province of Bukovina.
In this city of 120,000 people, of whom nearly 60,000 are categorized as “non-Aryans,” the Iron Guard has taken upon itself the task of “cleaning up the Jews” by as vigorous a campaign of attacks and terrorism as has recently been seen in the country.
It was during one of these anti-Semitic forays that Gregor met his death. He was immediately canonized by his compatriots as a martyr to the cause of contemporary anti-Semitism.
Recently, two Jewish youngsters, the brothers Isadore and Edward Wagner, aged 16 and 18 respectively were attacked by uniformed Iron Guardists as they strolled through the public park. They were accompanied by a Christian friend, Stephen Peniuc.
In the ensuing scuffle, Gregor, one of the participants, was fatally stabbed with a pocket-knife. Peniuc told the police that the knife was his and that he had used it in self-defense. Despite the confession, the authorities instantly accused the two Jewish lads of murder and jailed them pending further investigation.
On the same night, one of the Wagner brothers, the 18-year-old Edward, jumped, according to a police statement, through the window of his cell on the second floor and was found dead in the back yard. He was
buried secretly on the same night. The other brother, Isidore, was released the next morning, but Peniuc is still reported to be under arrest as this story is written.
Since there was no post-morten on Edward Wagner’s body and because of the hasty burial, rumor quickly spread among his friends that he had been beaten to death at the police station and then thrown out of the window to destroy traces of maltreatment.
To forestall possible investigation, fourteen of Edward’s friends and neighbors, all Jewish boys between 17 and 20 years of age, were arrested on a charge of “plotting against law and order and the safety of the State” and were sent away to the town of Jassy, home of Professor Alexander Cuza, the notorious anti-Semitic leader, where they are to be court-martialed in the Fall or Winter.
On the other hand, no storm-troopers were arrested, and the authorities provided them with full facilities for organizing a spectacular burial of their murdered comrade. Twenty-five thousand people from all parts of the country lined the streets of Czernowitz to watch the procession and nearly 50,000 persons, including school-children, students, soldiers, officers and priests, passed before Gregor’s bier.
At the burial service, attended by leading representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church, inflammatory speeches were made by Iron Guardists. All participants swore before a cross held by a priest to exterminate the Jews of Rumania.
Since Gregor’s death, the Jews in Czernowitz and Bukovina live in an atmosphere of panic, expecting outbreak of anti-Semitic excesses any day. Persons who resemble Jews are beaten up in the streets and go out to work only at the risk of their lives. On the spot where Gregor was killed in the public park a small cenotaph has been erected as a perpetual shrine to Rumania’s “Horst Wessel.” Its flame still flickers there.
Jewish dwellers avoid the park, which is now guarded by armed storm-troopers, because they fear assault.